Can Matthew Williams get Givenchy back on track?
A New York Times interview appeared a day before the Givenchy Spring/Summer 2023 show in which Creative Director Matthew Williams made an undisguised plea to be given a chance. Although LVMH doesn’t disclose earnings reports for its brands, rumor has it that Givenchy has been underperforming. From a consumer perspective, I understand why. Its lack of identity has been a problem for the house for a long time. It could also be a boon for a young designer with radical ideas who could imprint a new identity and march it forward.
However, I fear Williams is too timid in his approach. Take for instance his choice to tap Carine Roitfeld to style the Spring/Summer 2023 show. The idea was to create a dialogue between Los Angeles and Paris, resulting in “a transatlantic clash of enduring city wardrobes”. Williams would provide the American perspective, and Roitfeld the French. However, what she brought was a grab bag of identifiably Parisian references – tweed jackets à la Chanel, suiting and denim that reminded me of Celine, gloved-and-ruched dresses that were Balenciaga-esque – that read Parisian because of the Paris houses they are so famously attached to, rendering them derivative. Roitfeld’s input did the show no favors. Not even a surprise guest appearance by Kanye West or the addition of Bella and Gigi Hadid to the model casting could save this presentation.
Other moments didn’t fare much better. There were cropped hoodies, hardware-adorned bralettes, and knee-length cargo shorts, but this is streetwear stuff we’ve seen before. I wasn’t convinced. However, the ending selection of gowns, particularly the crimson gown with a scooped-out back and ivory gown with an articulated bust and feathered skirt, were clear nods to the Givenchy archives. Williams, to his credit, has always had an eye on the archives and has attempted to bring some of Hubert de Givenchy’s magic into his collection.
It may be, however, that Williams’ and Givenchy’s visions are at odds, as the collections of late have always seemed close to achieving greatness and also felt like they were missing something. There is a hollowness to perpetuating a house without a clear identity. What is it adding to the world? To fashion? Why would people invest? What are they getting out of it? Maybe Williams will be granted the time to figure out the answers to those questions.